News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bush aide denies ties to fake Iraq-Niger documents - Yahoo! News

By Adam Entous

President George W. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, denied on Wednesday that he or his staff received fake documents in 2002 that showed Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, a claim that formed part of the administration's case for going to war.

After consulting with a member of his staff "to refresh my memory," Hadley told reporters that the documents were first obtained by the State Department and then shared with the CIA, and that he does not recall ever discussing the issue with Italian intelligence officials.

"Suffice to say they didn't come to me. They didn't come to the NSC," Hadley said, referring to the National Security Council.

Bush, in making a case for war in his 2003 State of the Union address, said there was evidence that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa to further apparent nuclear-weapons ambitions. Bush cited British intelligence as the source of the information.

The FBI has been investigating the origin of the forged documents. U.S. officials have said in the past that the information was partly traced back to Italian intelligence sources.

The White House acknowledged after the war that the intelligence was faulty and Hadley took the blame for the reference that showed up in Bush's State of the Union speech.

According to reports in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Italian intelligence helped pass off forged documents that accused Iraq of trying to buy 500 tons of "yellowcake" uranium from Niger.

Focus has centered on Hadley because of his September 9, 2002, meeting with Italy's intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari.

Exactly one month later, on October 9, 2002, an Italian journalist provided the U.S. Embassy in Rome with copies of documents about the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium sale, according to a U.S. congressional investigation. Copies of the documents were then sent to State Department headquarters and the CIA, the congressional report said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office said last week that the government and Italian intelligence had no "direct or indirect role in the fabrication and the transmission of the 'fake dossier on Niger uranium."'

Backing up Berlusconi's account, the White House said earlier this week that U.S. officials who attended the September 9, 2002, meeting do not remember any discussion of the Niger claim or any exchange of documents.


Pollari is due to address an Italian parliamentary committee overseeing the intelligence service on Thursday at a closed-door meeting called to discuss the latest claims.

Asked if he or any member of his staff met with Italian intelligence outside the White House when the issue was discussed, Hadley said: "I can tell you my recollection. My recollection is no, not here, not anyplace else."

The Niger documents were declared forgeries by the International Atomic Energy Agency in March 2003.

The Niger issue has attracted renewed attention as U.S. special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up his investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. As part of his investigation, Fitzgerald has asked witnesses about the Niger report.

Bush's 2003 uranium claim fueled criticism from Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, that the administration twisted intelligence to bolster its case for war.

Wilson based his criticism in part on a CIA-sponsored mission he made to Africa in 2002 to check out reports that Iraq sought uranium from Niger. Wilson said the report was unsubstantiated, and later accused the White House of leaking his wife's identity in retaliation.


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